Scripture reading – Psalm 55; 2 Samuel 16

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The life and reign of David, king of Israel, continues to be the focus of our chronological Scripture reading. The setting of 2 Samuel 16 is a narrative of David’s hasty flight from Jerusalem, as Absalom, his thirdborn son, stole the people’s hearts and led an insurrection against his father. Psalm 55, the second portion of today’s assigned Scripture, is believed to have been written by the king during this time. Today’s Bible study will focus on 2 Samuel 16.

2 Samuel 16

Adding to David’s sorrows was the news that Ahithophel, a trusted counselor and the grandfather of Bathsheba, had joined Absalom’s rebellion (15:30-31). To counter Ahithophel’s counsel, David commanded Hushai the Archite, a faithful friend, and servant, to return to Jerusalem, join himself to Absalom, and serve as a spy in his son’s court (15:32-34, 37).

An Act of Deceit (16:1-4)

As David, his family, and an entourage of warriors fled Jerusalem, they encountered “Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth” (16:1). You might remember that Mephibosheth was the son of David’s late friend Jonathan, and the grandson of Saul. Though Mephibosheth had cause for a legal claim to his grandfather’s throne, he had accepted David as king. David extended to Mephibosheth the lands and properties that were his as Jonathan’s heir (2 Samuel 9:1-13). David had assigned Ziba to serve Mephibosheth as the caretaker of his estate (9:9-13).

Coming alone and bearing a large amount of food and wine seemed suspicious to David, who asked Ziba, “Where is thy master’s son?” (16:3) Ziba answered and betrayed his master and suggested Mephibosheth had planned to use Absalom’s insurrection as an occasion for him to usurp the throne (16:3).

Hasty in his response and failing to investigate the sincerity of Ziba’s claim, David bequeathed him the lands and properties of Mephibosheth (16:4). We will see later in our study that David would reverse his decision when he heard Mephibosheth’s account (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

The Insanity of a Bitter Spirit (16:5-9)

As they often do, the disappointments for David mounted when Shimei, a Benjamite and a man kin to Saul, greeted the king’s flight from Jerusalem. Time and space do not permit a full exploration of the deplorable scene, but it added to one of the lowest points of the king’s life (16:5-14). Shimei hurled curses and cast stones at David and his entourage and called the king a murderer and a worthless man (16:7). Shimei contended the humiliation David suffered was rightly deserved (16:8).

Nevertheless, David suffered the insults in silence. Abishai, the son of Zeruiah and the brother of Joab, requested the king’s blessing to defend his honor and said, “Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head” (16:9).

David’s Gracious and Humble Response (16:10-14)

Trusting in God’s sovereignty, David refused to seek revenge. He accepted Shimei’s abuse as from the LORD (16:10). In his sorrow, the king reflected on his shame and said to Abishai, “Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him” (16:11).

Determined to accept his humiliation, David said, “It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day” (16:12). Only when the king crossed the Jordan River did he, “and all the people that were with him…[refresh] themselves” (16:14; 17:22).


Absalom Seized His Father’s Throne and Committed Wickedness Before Israel (16:15-23)

Absalom wasted no time in crowning himself king. It seemed all Israel came to honor him (16:15); among them was Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather (16:15). Hushai, David’s friend and spy, presented himself to Absalom and declared, “God save the king, God save the king” (16:16). Flattering the youthful audacity of Absalom, Hushai convinced the young upstart that he had taken leave of David to serve him (16:17-19).

Ahithophel desired to heap further sorrow and shame on David (no doubt bearing bitterness for the king’s adultery with his daughter Bathsheba) and counseled Absalom to disgrace his father further (16:20-21). He suggested Absalom would endear himself to Israel by entering his father’s harem and committing incest with the king’s concubines (16:20-21). Absalom heeded the detestable counsel of Ahithophel and went into his father’s harem “in the sight of all Israel” (16:22).

Closing thoughts –


For a season, Ahithophel’s counsel seemed “as if a man had inquired at the oracle [sanctuary; the holy place] of God” (16:23). The old counselor was wise, but his advice would soon be disregarded by Absalom (17:14). As we will see, Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather, had allowed bitterness to poison his soul. He had committed sedition against David, God’s anointed, and will commit suicide rather than face the consequences of his treason (17:23).

In closing, I invite you to consider David’s response to Shimei’s curses and abuse (16:11-12). He received Shimei’s accusations with humility, knowing there was truth in his words. David was a “bloody man” (16:7), for his hands were stained with Uriah’s blood. The king accepted the sorrows and humiliations he suffered resulting from his wickedness and were a fulfillment of the prophecy of God’s judgment (2 Samuel 12:7-12). David had committed sins in secret, but they were now the catalyst for public sorrow and shame.

In the words of a poet, “Curses are like young chickens: they always come home to roost.”

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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